a headshot of APDO member Lynsey Grundy

Spotlight on members’ professional development: Becoming a hoarding specialist


In this series of posts on our members’ professional development, we are interviewing APDO professional organisers who have undertaken additional qualifications or training, to find out how their clients and businesses have benefitted. In this next post in the series, Moira Stone of Uncluttered Wales talks to Lynsey Grundy of Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds about becoming a hoarding specialist. 

Lynsey and her assistant are employed to provide tenancy support for Southway Housing Trust, a social housing landlord in South Manchester. In addition, Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds – a service within the Trust – provides hoarding support to private and other clients. She also works with other housing providers and as a consultant.

What is a hoarding specialist and how did you get interested in hoarding?

I’m a specialist now but it’s taken a long time to get here.

I’ve worked in crisis management and social care for about 25 years. I came to work in social housing on tenancy support, to help our tenants with any aspect of their lives that’s causing them difficulty and is impacting on their tenancy. It could be drugs, alcohol, gambling, mental health, illness. This is a free service to our tenants.

The reason for tenancy support is that we want to help our tenants to sustain their tenancies and manage their homes. On a purely financial level, it’s much better for us to keep tenants rather than have property voids with the associated costs. But it goes beyond that.

In 2014-15 we did a review of all tenancies looking at things like the number of working families, under-occupancy and over-crowding. It was a bit like a general census and we made some interesting discoveries. We knew about tenants who we had regular contact with about tenancy matters like unpaid rent or anti-social behaviour, but we didn’t know much or anything about people who we weren’t regularly in contact with. They might have been paying their rent and allowing someone in to check the gas, but some of them also had hoarding behaviour.

Bringing these tenants to the surface highlighted that the Trust had no policy or strategy about hoarding. If there was an extreme case of hoarding (which was actually very rare) the only tool we had was under the terms of the tenancy agreement and enforcement action which could lead to eviction. I asked other housing trusts and the City Council – nothing. That there was no policy or strategy just didn’t sit right with me.

I went on a few courses and, with a solicitor, to a housing provider event about anti-social behaviour (“ASB”) cases. All this got my juices flowing and I wrote my ideas up for my boss and ultimately the CEO agreed for us to start working in a different way. Statutory services, NHS and social care were all interested and we came up with a hoarding offer. Southway Housing Trust saw the benefit and provided funds to make it work.

What makes a good hoarding specialist?

It’s not for the faint-hearted. Not everyone wants to wade through someone else’s belongings.

To start out, you have to have a genuine interest and relevant knowledge. That might come from, say, a background in counselling or something similar.

You have to know your limits. I won’t work anywhere with fleas, for example, until they’ve been eradicated. I’m not taking fleas home to my animals!

You need to be able to clear your mind. You need a poker face, an unshockable face! And you need a lot of patience and understanding to work together with the client to solve the problem together.

Building your expertise to become a specialist requires detailed knowledge and experience of hoarding in all its different manifestations. Think about it, ask questions about it!

And I’d just like to say how good it is that potential clients can now click on ‘hoarding’ as a specialism on the Find An Organiser page of the APDO website.

Hands around a mug

Tell us about training

There’s quite a bit of training out there now, some courses more expensive than others. Look at what hoarding training is available. Jump on it!

Different courses are run by, amongst others:

And there are so many basic online courses available now on relevant subjects like mindfulness, CBT and so on. Adding to your knowledge and experience with short courses all builds up your understanding and gives you tools to use.

Read books! I recommend Understanding Hoarding by Jo Cooke (founder of Hoarding Disorders UK) and Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee.

How is your business benefitting?

Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds and Southway Housing Trust are providing a service that wasn’t there before.

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. People really don’t choose to live in a hoarded environment; something happened in their lives to make it like this. We try to get beyond the behaviour to the root cause of what’s causing it, by building up a relationship so clients feel comfortable. We try to ask the right questions and then provide information that will help. The client doesn’t have to be a victim for the rest of their life and we aim to be part of the solution.

We aim to cover our costs and last year, £12,500 went back into the service from private clients. We also save housing providers money. Not having to evict tenants who hoard can save landlords like us around £45,000. That’s the costs of eviction, cleaning, damage and voids. So paying around £2,000 for a service like Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds is a no-brainer. The cost is so much less and there’s a very much better outcome.

We benefit hugely from joining forces with other public sector agencies across the ten Greater Manchester local authorities. I’ll just give you three examples of how we all benefit from access to different learning and resources.

  • The Fire Service refers potential clients to us when they do safety checks. And we were able to use their premises free of charge to start a new peer support group. (We had to move elsewhere because we had so many members, and then COVID struck … but all the same!)

 

  • Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds is an approved provider with social services. As hoarding is classed as self-neglect in the Care Act 2014, potential clients may be eligible for a personal budget. We can provide a report assessment outlining their need, the service, required funding and the hoped-for outcome of an improved life. This can often unlock a personal budget of perhaps around £2,500.

 

  • Finally, and excitingly, I’m learning about ACE – adverse childhood experiences – and the trauma-informed way of working. ACE refers to four or more traumas occurring during someone’s childhood. Examples are abuse, domestic violence, prison and death. ACE is a big part of why hoarding can occur. I’m now part of ACE’s team working in a nurturing, trauma-informed way with schools and community centres. We’re planning to roll the approach out to the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester. I’m passionate about getting this launched.

Thank you Lynsey for sharing your work with us and explaining more about the help that is available for people who hoard.

If you would like to find out more about APDO members and their specialisms, take a look at the Find An Organiser directory.


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